Amazon's Online Interest Tracking
A few weeks ago, I was doing the usual site-hopping and saw an author mentioned; to see what that was about and because it would be hard to understand what was being said otherwise, I tracked him down and ended up at Amazon.com, where there are often decent user reviews. Turns out that author had some pretty intense views of politics (not so surprising nowadays, I guess) but, at any rate, I didn't finish reading the section and didn't purchase anything. How many of us do stuff like that?
Well, today, I get an email from Amazon saying:
"As someone who has expressed interest in books by <deleted author name>, you might like to know that "<deleted book title>" will be released on <deleted>. You can pre-order your copy by following the link below.
What? Expressed an interest? I don't know how "interested" I might have been; I just tend to try to get background on information when someone mentions something; I might just as well have been at Wikipedia. What bothered me, though, was that since I had not purchased anything by this author nor put any of his items in my wish list, how did Amazon know what I might have "expressed an interest in"? So I went to Amazon to see what I could see.
Turns out that … it appears that Amazon tracks your browsing history. It was a bit difficult to find the controls, but they're there:
Update your communication preferences, in:
Your Store › Your Browsing History › Manage Your Browsing History
I'm going to guess that I was logged in to our Amazon account (at least, I hope I was logged in — especially as I have my browser set to delete all but a few specified cookies when I close it); otherwise, I'm not sure how Amazon would tie my browsing "interests" to my email address.
My thought is this: there's a fine line between being helpful and going far too far. I'm not sure whether I'd be as (as they say in the vernacular) "creeped out" if I had been reading something else at Amazon.com, but I think it's too much to follow customers around with lists of what they check into in order to send them offers. This wouldn't happen at an offline bookstore; I can't think of any offline stores (or online stores, now that I think of it) that surreptitiously gather user contact data in order to send you marketing offers when you didn't purchase anyway.
I've bought my fair share of little stuff from Amazon — CDs of the West Wing series, and the rather amazing Zatoichi martial arts movies. I didn't necessarily buy them on the first visit, either; but I also didn't get follow up emails about them.
I dunno. Is this going too far, or not? Does this give anyone else the creeps?
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